District Attorney John Adams of Berks County, Pennsylvania has ruled that the July death of a man killed by a bulldozer while being pursued by police was accidental. The district attorney also found that the police officers involved in the incident had acted reasonably in their pursuit of Gregory Longenecker.
“On August 24, 2018, The Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling the death an accidental death,” Adams said. “I recognize the sanctity of life above all values. It is very unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania state police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner in this situation.”
Pursuit By Bulldozer
In July of this year, a state game worker reported to police that a suspicious vehicle was parked on land owned by the state. When police arrived, David Brooks Light, 54, of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania surrendered to officers but Longenecker, 51, of Reading ran away.
After discovering 10 cannabis plants being grown on the property, police initiated a search for Longenecker with a helicopter and a bulldozer being driven through heavy brush by a state game worker. A state trooper was also riding on the bulldozer. After calling off the search for Longenecker, police found his crushed body in the tracks of the bulldozer.
District Attorney Adams also said that the police officers involved had no responsibility for Longenecker’s death and that no charges would be filed against them.
Jeff Reidy, the Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML, said that Longenecker’s death is indicative of the stigma still attached to cannabis in the United States.
“Today’s disappointing ruling exemplifies once again that some within the criminal justice system still view marijuana as the enemy, and that the power of the badge can be blinding to others,” Reidy said. “A man is dead because law enforcement made some unnecessary choices in the heat of the moment, when a frightened man fled. There were other means available to track down this man. They had his friend in custody. And was he really a danger to anybody for growing ten marijuana plants?”
“Until we reform our outdated laws, there will be more Greg Longeneckers being chased by law enforcement, over a handful of harmless plants growing in a field or forest,” Reidy added. “We can end such senseless acts by legalizing cannabis, and allowing home grows across our state. No one should die for growing a plant that can do so much good!”
Another cannabis activist, Pittsburgh NORML Executive Director Patrick Nightingale, said the actions of police were not justifiable.
“We are very disappointed in the findings by the District Attorney’s Office in this matter,” Nightingale said. “Under no circumstances whatsoever can the actions of law enforcement be justified. This man and his companion were allegedly growing a handful of plants that posed absolutely no risk to anyone. There were no ‘exigent circumstances’ requiring aggressive law enforcement tactics to protect the public from dangerous fugitives.”
“These heavy-handed tactics resulted in the death of a man, who likely would have received probation upon conviction,” he continued. “This sad tragedy demonstrates the need for legalization because wherever cannabis is criminally prohibited some members of law enforcement will find an excuse to run a man over with construction equipment.”
Brooks, the man arrested at the scene, has been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, according to Berks County records.